What is a Sugar Shack? – A Journey into Traditional Quebec Culture

I loved visiting Quebec.  Montreal and Quebec City were lovely cities, and they were full of charm.  But, they were cities.  They had a lot of history evident, but life had moved on.  Most parts of the cities were as modern as any other city, and you had to go into the “Old Town” if you wanted to relive some of the more traditional parts of Quebec life.

It is always a goal of mine to get out of the city.  I like the slower pace, and the smaller number of people.  I guess I’m just a country girl.  So even though I loved my time in Montreal, I was happy to head out for an afternoon at a Sugar Shack.

Sugar Shack in Quebec
Learning how the sap is turned into maple sugar using traditional Quebec methods.

The Sugar Shacks are where the sap of the maple tree is boiled and made into maple syrup.  Most Sugar Shacks in Quebec are only open during the sugaring-off season – which is normally the spring.  Many families traditionally spend their Easter dinner together at a Sugar Shack, eating traditional Quebec food and lots of maple sugar.

A family enjoying a meal at a Sugar Shack.

Since it was the summer when I was visiting Canada, I visited the Sucrerie de la Montagne, which is open year round.  This sugar shack has been designated a “Site du Patrimoine Québécois” or Quebec Heritage Site, and it adheres to the traditional way of gathering the tree sap by hand.   What it should be designated as is “Place I’d Get Fat if I Ate There More Than Once.”

The food.  Oh the food!  The quantity was amazing.  There were things I’d never heard of like Christ’s Ears (Oreilles de crisse) which were some sort of fried pork thing, homemade bread, pea soup, and meat pie.  Flight after flight of traditional Quebec fare, which you then dump ample maple syrup over.  I can see why you would return year after year… but only once a year!

Maple sugar at a sugar shack in quebec
Syrup! Syrup for everyone!

When I was walking around the dimly lit eating area after overindulging in syrup drenched food, I found a yellowed newspaper article from decades earlier with several recipes listed.  Here is one of them, a maple sugar pie recipe.  I had this for dessert (which I obviously needed since I consumed only a year’s worth of sugar during the rest of the meal), and it was great!

Authentic Sugar Shack Recipe – Maple Sugar Pie

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup packed maple sugar (brown sugar can be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup flower
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Put milk in the top of a double boiler and when hot add the beaten yolks to which has been added a little hot milk.

Mix together the maple sugar and flour and whisk gradually into the hot milk.  Remove from heat and add salt and butter.  Cool.  Pour into a baked pie crust and chill.  Serve with whipped cream.

Even if you can’t visit your own sugar shack, you can have a taste of it at home.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Where is the Sucrerie de la Montagne Sugar Shack?

Just to the west of Montreal, the Sucrerie de la Montagne would make a great half-day trip for the whole family.

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I visited the Sucrerie de la Montagne as a guest on a G Adventures trip – The Quebec and Ontario Explorer.